As a career coach, I’ve been privy to all sorts of interview mishaps. I once had a client come to me who was completely dumbfounded as to why she didn’t get a particular job. She knew the ins and outs of the company and was confident she was a perfect fit for the position. As we went over her interview, play by play, I noticed something: she had to justify every single comment. She was essentially selling herself short by over explaining everything. Some things are better left unsaid.
From over explaining to a negative disposition, here are five interview blunders I’ve seen cost completely qualified candidates their dream jobs.
1. Over explaining
Interviewers don’t always share their concerns about candidates during the job interview, since there are often plenty of other candidates fighting for the job. For this reason, you need to take the initiative to guess on what their looming doubts may be about your application, and address them on your own.
There's a fine line between addressing a concern that your interviewer has brought up and shining a spotlight on a weakness. The longer you explain yourself, the sketchier you sound. So if you've lost a job, left a job or have been out of a job for a while, you need to rehearse until you nail a quick answer. Then, you’ll want to try to frame it as a blessing. Nothing is worse than seeming bitter, nervous or unprepared when addressing something delicate.
For instance, "It was a gift for my old company to restructure, as it allowed me to refocus on what path I want to take, and I’m so excited to be here with you for that reason." In one sentence, you've addressed the concern and honed in on the opportunity at hand.
2. Leading the interview
Remember, they called you in – not the other way around. Make sure you let your interviewer lead. Don’t get too chummy and start asking personal questions. While it's great to be warm and approachable, 17% of hiring managers state that asking personal questions during an interview is going to count against you.
While you should have some questions to ask about the position at the end (or during, if they open it up to you), it's important to keep in mind that they're in the driver’s seat.
3. Lacking warmth
A lot of candidates seem so professional and clean that they lack the warmth that's needed to connect. In fact, 38% of hiring managers have ruled out potential candidates due to their unwillingness to smile.
I interviewed a candidate for a position back when I was managing a global threat team for a private company that was doing business all over the world. When I walked out, the only word I could think of for him was "socialized." He was so polished and perfect that I couldn’t connect with him. While it’s great to be professional, you need to remember to also be human.
One way to break through this is to prepare a statement such as, "The reason this opportunity and company strikes a personal chord with me is…" From there, share what really moves you about the work. Look your interviewer in the eye, and practice your answer to a point where it doesn't seem so contrived. If it does sounds contrived, it’s either too long or you’re not practicing it enough.
4. Trying to be everything
While it helps to show you’re a self-starter and a quick learner, they are hiring for a particular role, and for that reason, it’s important you focus most of your conversation on that. Don’t try to be something that you’re not.
If there’s something the company wants you to work on, yet you don’t have much experience with it, transparency is key. If your interviewer tells you, "We need our new hire to be familiar with Photoshop," and they look at you to ask if you are comfortable with that program, it’s so much better to just be honest and clear. For example, “I’m familiar with Photoshop, but I don’t have a rich experience of it. Nonetheless, I’m a quick learner, and I would be really excited to deepen my knowledge of that in this position.”
49% of hiring managers cited speaking negatively about a co-worker to be one of the top mistakes they witness during interviews. No one wants to sit down with someone who has anything negative to say. Don’t talk smack, and whatever you do, don’t tell your interviewer that you hated your job...even if you did. Instead, come from an angle of gratitude. You've learned from your previous job experience, you've gotten a lot out of your time with the company, and now you’re moving on because you’re ready to grow.
Your ability to stand out from the other candidates and land the job boils down to how well you handle yourself during the interview. It’s important to be personable, yet professional, and sell yourself in a clear, concise manner.
As for my client who didn’t land her job? She went back out there and found a position that was perfectly suited to her needs...and she was confident enough in her abilities that she didn’t feel the need to over explain herself.
Ashley Stahl coaches job seekers to find their purpose and land more job offers. She also runs CAKE Publishing, a ghostwriting house that helps influencers create content.
The original article appeared on Forbes.
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